Thursday, December 16, 2010

Will It Help Me Survive an Act of Nuclear Terror?

Pictured: bricked in fireplace, one BBB pillar candle (ivory) and a beat-up mirror someone threw out

Dickens by candlelight--Day Four
On 134 page of 852. Bleak House experiences its first suspicious death: young man, advanced stages of starvation. Profession: freelance copier of legal documents. Cause of death: drug overdose. Place of death: a low, filthy bed in a rented room over a rag and bottle warehouse. Drug in question: opium.

Before last night’s reading (with its victim reminiscent of one or two 21st Century chaps I know), I made the mistake of checking, and came across the following article, full like a punchbowl with holiday cheer:

U.S. Rethinks Strategy for the Unthinkable

Imagine how glad I was to know that in the case of a nuclear blast, I should, stay put, hunker down, have a cuppa tea, let them that know tell me when it’s finally time for me to get the hell out of Sin City. With this news freshly in mind, I turned off the computer and the lights, lit up (candle—not opium pipe) and settled down for the evening’s installment of Dickens by candlelight.

By way of full disclosure, I read by not one candle light but three. In actuality it is one candle, but one of those fancy Bed Bath and Beyond numbers with three wicks.

Each night, I’ve been trying to figure how best to get the optimal light out of what probably adds up to about 20 or less watts of electric light. The main questions being: Where does one place candle? Where does one place self in relation to candle? And where does one place five pound book in relation to self and candle?

Ultimately, I decided to place the candle where I always have one, that is in the bricked-up fireplace in my room in front of the antique mirror I picked out of a trash heap on a Manhattan street. Second point of full disclosure, this does magnify my three wick candle’s light by two. (One might argue that this means I am reading by not one candle but six, but if you want to get technical with me Dickens has just the court for us to settle the dispute.)

Now as for the next two questions: placement of self and book. Optimal placement of self in relation to candle: still undecided. Last night it was on the floor, propped up by pillows, freezing in my longjohns, nearly recumbent like a certain drug overdose in the reading. 

Nemo, the Drug Overdose, with Hellcat

Now for the final question: optimal placement of book in relation to candle. This one is not up for debate. The book must be tilted toward the light and since candlelight is always uplighting (blame the laws of physics), this means that one must angle the pages of the book down. Are you picturing it? This, Mesdames & mssrs, is the hardest part of my experiment, reading with a book pointed toward the floor.

In bed after the overdose, I found my mind conflating the article with my experiment. I wondered if in the case of a nuclear holocaust that my newly found skills of candlelight reading might not help me (and those lucky enough to be with me) survive.

Provided that we find a proper basement or parking garage.
Provided that said basement has a library of Victorian Fiction.
And a candle.
With three wicks please.

Any requests of books for me to read to you in our bunker?

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